July 17th 2011

So here I am again, finally, after more than a couple of months.  I have been wanting to send another update, but life is so busy and so normal that I don’t feel there’s much to say.
Anyway, I’ll give you a general update including some facts and figures I have picked up along the way:
Power stations / nuclear power
Now this is all interesting, because there has been a real backlash against nuclear power and even if it takes 20 or 30 years to develop alternatives, a lot of people are saying that they just want nuclear power to go away.  They will put up with it while alternatives are developed, but they want to know  that that is the general direction we are going.  I was a bit sceptical at first because you can’t just get rid of it, and anyway, decommissioning the things is the really scary part (apart from the really really scary part where they go into meltdown of course).
So, here are some facts and figures:
Number of reactors at Fukushima Daiichi that had meltdowns: 3
Number of reactors currently working in Japan: 18 (out of 54).
Hmmm . . . so that first fact came out a few weeks ago, and I remember reading the newspaper that morning before school, and stopping and doing a very good (if I say so myself) impression of a meerkat: suddenly sat up very straight, looked around, felt myself processing that monumental information.  Pardon?  What was that again?  3, you say?  And one melted down within the first 24 hours?  It’s scary now, but if we had all known at the time . . . I just don’t know.  That first week was stressful enough, I can’t imagine how we would have felt knowing that.
The second fact is having a big impact on our lives as we head into the summer heat and humidity.  Obviously, there is Not Enough Electricity.
More facts:
Recommended temperature to set air conditioners at: 28 degrees celsius (I think that’s low 80s fahrenheit).
Percentage of people who are trying to save electricity in their daily life: 75%.  (Shame on you the other 25%!)
Japan has a great number of ‘eco goods’, i.e. ecologically-sound items to reduce your impact on the environment.  Examples of this would be; carrying your own water bottle instead of buying some at the convenience store (‘my bottle’); carrying your own chopsticks (hashi) instead of using disposable ones (‘my hashi’); carrying a fan or wearing lighter clothing (‘cool biz’).  The latter means something like a salariman (office worker) in a Hawaiian shirt instead of white shirt and tie.  You don’t see much of that.  So this year we are all trying to do our bit, and there is still a lot of ‘Gambare Nihon!’ encouragement around – hang in there, Japan!  Chin up, Japan!  Even on the ANA flights I took last month they had changed the design on the coffee cups to read ‘Forward together as one, Japan’ (心をひとつに、がんばろうニッポン)
Earthquakes
Until a couple of weeks ago I would have been able to say, nope, no earthquakes here for ages.  But not so fast . . . we had a few quite big ones, but then they stopped again.  Nothing like what we had in March, but big enough that they would have been alarming before March.  Now they are just in the ‘did-you-feel-that earthquake?’ category.  Our new normal.
Tohoku
There are still thousands of people missing, and thousands (probably tens of thousands) living in evacuation centres or temporary housing.  People are still going to help, and next month a group of students and teachers from school will go to Sendai to help out for a few days. When I went into school today it seemed there was some kind of huge mailshot going on to raise more money too.  There are collection boxes in a lot of shops and although it’s not in the international news any more there is a lot about Tohoku and Fukushima in the news here every day.
People
In general we are all calm and well, but hot and sticky!  Some foreign residents left in March and came back but decided to transfer over the summer.  Some people never came back, but most did.  Despite concerns that there would be a big split between the people who stayed and the ones who left, I haven’t heard of any tension or problems.  Although there is a lot of information coming out about what really happened, life is just normal.  However, in school yesterday the teacher who sits next to me in the staffroom pulled out a hand-held geiger counter!!!  I thought I knew what it was but asked just to check, and then I asked him if we had ever been in danger and he said no, but if it detects any radiation at all it starts to make a clicking sound.  I just goggled at him when I saw it actually, it just seemed so bizarre that he had it on his person.
Yesterday was the final assembly at school; the students received their report cards and now we are done for the summer – except for all those summer activities that keep everyone busy of course.  There are various trips for year groups, clubs, volunteer work etc.  I usually go on the English Club trip but have been excused this year.  I leave for the UK on Monday and will be back on August 23rd.  As well as the UK I’m also going to France and the Netherlands, and after I get back to Japan will be going to Singapore for almost a week.  Lucky me!
If I am going to see you this summer; I can’t wait to see you!  I hope to catch up with as many people as possible.  If I won’t see you or speak to you on the phone; I hope you have a wonderful summer!  Re-charge your batteries and spend time with the people you love!

 

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